Officials in the south-central Idaho city of Heyburn have agreed to move toward asking a judge to approve a bond to cover the cost of a major wastewater treatment upgrade rather than asking voters to approve the bond.
The Times-News reports that the Heyburn City Council on July 25 approved the plan rather than ask voters to pass a bond of between $7 million and $8 million.
The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the city to bring its wastewater treatment plant into compliance with federal regulations or face fines of more than $53,000 a day.
In a process called judicial confirmation, a judge decides if the wastewater treatment upgrade is necessary. Even if voters rejected a bond measure to pay for the upgrades, city officials say they’d still have to use judicial confirmation to pay for the upgrades.
“We totally respect our citizens’ rights to vote, but as a city we don’t have a choice,” Councilwoman Joanne Justesen said.
City attorney Paul Ross said the council’s move is a first step and isn’t a final decision.
City Administrator Tony Morley has said the city must have the improvements completed by 2022. He said the fines would likely bankrupt the city, and the timeline for repairs is short.
The city has struggled with compliance at the plant since 2014. The facility has had nearly 600 violations, which occur when the discharge of phosphorus exceeds certain levels.